Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is to meet the main opposition leader Thursday for decisive talks that will likely determine if the country forges a coalition government or heads to snap polls.
Turkey has been without a full time government since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its overall majority in June 7 legislative elections for the first time since taking power in 2002.
AKP leader Davutoglu will meet Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Ankara at 1100 GMT for what is seen as a final chance to agree a coalition.
“Whether Turkey will have a coalition or not will be probably seen today after the meeting,” said Ozgur Altug, chief economist at BCG Partners in Istanbul.
The political impasse comes as Ankara wages one of its biggest security operations in years — a cross-border offensive against Takfiri group, ISIL (so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant), in Syria, and an offensive targeting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq and southeast Turkey.
Earlier, Turkey has been reluctant to step up fight against ISIL. Media reports repeatedly said that Ankara has been aiding ISIL terrorists against the Kurdish fighters and against the Syrian government.
However, deadly attacks blamed on ISIL recently rocked Turkey, prompting Ankara to allegedly step the fight against the Takfri group.
But, so far, the air strikes have overwhelmingly concentrated on the separatist Kurdish rebels.
Erdogan “Meddling” in Coalition Talks
While an initial round of talks began warmly, opposition politicians and commentators have accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of meddling in the coalition talks in order to trigger early elections.
The results of the June 7 elections were one of the biggest blows yet to the combative Erdogan and torpedoed his dream of parliament agreeing a new presidential system for Turkey.
On Wednesday, Erdogan indicated that he would not be bothered by the failure of the coalition talks, saying their collapse would not be a reason for a party leader to “commit suicide”.
Under the constitution, Davutoglu – as leader of the largest party – has until August 23 to agree a coalition.
Erdogan has said he does not have the authority to extend the deadline, but several commentators cast doubt on this.
“If he (Erdogan) thinks a government may be formed, he may extend this period,” wrote columnist Mehmet Yilmaz in the Hurriyet daily.
“But he will not do such a thing because, indeed, he does not want a coalition — he favors snap elections.”
Analysts have said such elections could be called as soon as October or November, or next year if the AKP prefers to wait.
The prime reason for the AKP’s failure to win an overall majority was the strong performance of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) which won over 13 percent of the vote.
Critics have suggested that Erdogan ordered the security operation with the aim of discrediting the HDP by linking it to the outlawed PKK in order to harm its chances in a vote.